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September 11, 2012

Elder Abuse Not As Rare As Reports Suggest

 Elder abuse not as rare as reports suggest, area advocates say
September 10, 2012
By Scott Moyers ~ Southeast Missourian

Imagine a weathered and wrinkled face, one that has seen nearly a century of life. Now watch as it recoils suddenly into a grimace of fear as another -- this one 70 years younger -- distorts to anger, draws back a wrinkle-free open hand and then uses it on the one that has been smiling almost since the Titanic sank.
And the younger one uses enough force that, tomorrow, there will be bruising.
It's a situation that police say played out last month at a Cape Girardeau nursing home, where a nurse's aide, no longer employed there, now faces charges of elder abuse.
Police say Sherri L. Sprenger, who was set to graduate with her licensed practical nursing degree this month, admitted to them that she hit the woman on the right side of her face with the back of her right hand. Sprenger told police she did so because she had lost her temper after the victim yelled at her, court records show. What the truth is will play out in court, with an arraignment set for Sept. 24 in Jackson.
Still, elder abuse is a sobering and blood-boiling thought, no doubt, for those with grandmothers, older aunts or special friends whose age stretches past a certain number. But it's also one that seldom is talked about in Cape Girardeau and surrounding communities. Records from the Cape Girardeau Police Department show that reports of elder abuse in all its guises is rare. For example, the report that Sprenger hit a 98-year-old resident at the Lutheran Home was the first such report of elder abuse made in 2012. In all of last year, there were two, the records show.
Rare reporting doesn't mean that the abuse is rare, said several local advocates for the aging and nursing home administrators. Much of the time, seniors stay silent. It is estimated that for every one case of elder abuse, about five more go unreported.
Viviane Rains, the administrator at the Missouri Veterans Home in Cape Girardeau, has worked in nursing home administration for nearly two decades. She worked with Sprenger, who worked at the veterans home in the past. Rains said labor laws forbid her from commenting about Sprenger's work record there -- or if there were other similar reports in Sprenger's file from her days there.
But Rains said she has made reports of elder abuse to the state as required by law. And every time she hears about even the possibility of such an incident, she said she is taken aback.
"Sometimes I just can't believe how wrong it is," Rains said. "I have dedicated my life, not only to serving veterans, but to serving the elderly. In my field, you take it personally every time. It hits close to home."
Rains is quick to point out that she believes that far and away most of the people who go into senior care are good at their jobs and never would dream of hurting the elderly. But she agrees that if it happens once, that's too much.
Since announcing that Sprenger no longer worked there, the Lutheran Home has declined requests for comment.

 Abridged
SOURCE:        SeMissourian
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